Sunday, March 22, 2009

3/8 Marines secure Golestan

March 19, 2009
Story by: Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones

GOLESTAN, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – U.S. Marines are diligently working to create conditions for host nation security forces to take over while building the locals’ faith in their country’s government in Golestan, Farah Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Marines with second platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, mentor and train the Afghan National Police in Golestan, while providing security and working closely with government officials to achieve community-driven goals.

The platoon’s main focus is to provide security throughout Golestan’s valley. It conducts security patrols through the rugged, mountainous terrain, local bazaar and villages and speaks with the locals Afghans.

“Without you I cannot live and work in this area I am in,” said Qasim Khan, the district sub-governor, as translated by an interpreter. “One of the first things you created here was safety, and that is the biggest thing. I guarantee you if you weren’t here we wouldn’t be here either, and we want to continue working together to bring more security.”

Khan meets with the Marines often to discuss local issues, in the hopes of finding resolutions. He is grateful for the help his community receives from the Marines.

“We all understand you left your children, you left your wives and have left them to come to a faraway land for me, for our country,” Khan said. “We want security, and we want to live like you do. We pray everyday that you all make it home safely.”

Within Golestan’s valley, there are approximately 10 tribes scattered throughout 15 villages. Many of the villages the Marines patrol to have rarely seen Afghan or alliance forces.

“People further away think their government is weak and believe the (insurgency) is the only other way,” said Amir Mohammed, the district prosecutor, referring to how easily the people are persuaded to side with insurgents.
The job is very time consuming, but their efforts are not in vain. They are creating conditions in which contractors feel safe enough to work in the area to improve local facilities and infrastructure, according to Cpl. Benjamin G. Miles, a mortarman assigned to 3/8 who volunteered for the deployment here.

The Marines have few problems dealing with the locals and try to help them with a variety of difficulties they’re trying to overcome.

“We try to help them whenever we can as far as food and medical attention, and if they need stuff they can come and ask,” said Lance Cpl. William Hering, a mortarman with the platoon. “We’ll help them if we can. There hasn’t been an attack from surrounding towns because we are constantly patrolling and showing a presence. We’re letting the people see that we’re here, and we are doing stuff to help them out.”

A great deal of the unit’s time is also spent escorting convoys and securing landing zones to ensure much needed supplies are delivered for the locals.

“Convoys have been ambushed multiple times, and we’ve pushed back the enemy to the point that they retreated,” Hering said.
The Marines have engaged in fire fights, encountered improvised explosive devices, and had a rocket-propelled grenade attack on their forward operating base, but have suffered no casualties.

“I like it out here because we are really taking the fight to the enemy,” said Miles.

One of the strongest characteristics displayed by the platoon is its small unit leadership, which operates with little reserve when taking initiative for action.

“Here on this FOB, I’ve noticed that everybody wants to be the best,” said Sgt. Aaron M. Titus, second platoon’s first squad leader. “It’s almost a competition or a rivalry between the squads. Everybody wants to be good at their jobs. That’s a good deal when people care that much.”

While training for the deployment, 2nd Lt. Daniel M. Yurkovich, the platoon commander, stressed the importance of building close family ties while working in an isolated area.

“All my Marines out here are a pretty tight family, and they’re doing amazing things,” Yurkovich said. “I got guys that go out on patrol and come back, stand post, fill sand bags and other tasks all in one day. They’re all great young men, and it is the one thing that brings us together.”
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